Hypnospace Outlaw feels necessary. Not quite universally important but certainly vital for a large portion of the people in my orbit. It calls back to a simpler time of the Internet when you had to yell down to your mom to get off the phone because you want to log on. Or when everyone still started every URL with “www.”
Most significantly, though, is that it captures the Wild West nature of the information superhighway, as implied by the name of the game itself. It was truly just everyone striking out, not knowing what was out there, and looking for…whatever. Solace, gold, people, Neopets. There were no rules, so there was no particular way to bastardize it.
It lies in stark contrast with the Internet of today, where everything is categorized and taxonomy’d and tagged and siloed to hell. Rules are the Internet at this point, and that means people of ill intent can break them. You simultaneously trust everything and have to be wary of everything. It’s thoroughly broken and a vile system of manipulation and malicious capitalistic intent.
Of course, the online world of yesteryear had its own perils. It was a time before catfishing and Nigerian princes were jokes. Every scheme was brand new because these personal connections were new; they were not systemic hacks or viruses.
And that’s what Hypnospace Outlaw tends to embody best. Because so much of the danger lay in the interpersonal, diving headfirst into the systemic was exciting. If you were online, you were a content creator. Uploading anything meant you were contributing some a substantial portion of someone’s online experience. Editing your GeoCities page would be someone’s entire day. Everything felt important.
More importantly, however, is that everything was truly, deeply, irrevocably embarrassing. Looking back at it, it’s an escapable conclusion that everyone was naively deluded. To think that what we did then would matter in any meaningful amount of time in the future is hilarious now, let alone the fact that we though dark blue backgrounds with bright yellow text looked good. That our little slice of a digital Wild West would survive whatever happens next.
But that’s kind of the point. No one galloping around the plains of the American west thought that their outlaw lifestyle would end. That the rumblings of chugging trains and Model Ts would signal the death of so many freedoms while bringing in many more. And that’s what Hypnospace Outlaw manages to ensnare: that we were invincible and we were idiots.